In Support of the Pollinator Initiative on Bowen Island

January 18th, 2015

I am writing to support the Pollinator Initiative in Crippen Park on Bowen Island. I am a member of the Board of Directors of the Bowen Island Foundation and our Board has expressed interest in funding this initiative.

 

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Flawed Arithmetic

March 16th, 2014

As the plane descends towards Fort McMurray’s airport, I am struck by the forest cover that seems to extend in all directions. It’s part of the global taiga, the boreal forests of the north, a midpoint between the arctic tundra and the temperate forests of southern and coastal Canada. There are pine, spruce, and larch, and a sense that this sunny day in late August is about to yield to a colder and more challenging season.

Since 1995 Fort McMurray has been a part of the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo, the second largest municipality in Canada, covering almost 65,000 square kilometres, and home to not only Fort McMurray but nine other rural communities. The population of Fort McMurray has exploded since the late 1960s, when there were only about 2,500 residents.  Today there are more than 100,000 people living in the region. Fort Mac, as it often is referred to, is the urban anchor for the Athabasca oil sands, the largest known reserve of heavy crude oil in the world, and a controversial but booming energy initiative, often criticized for its environmental impacts.

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A Crowbar in the Buddhist Garden

October 23rd, 2013

Stephen Reid appeared to be a poster boy for redemption, the acclaimed author of Jackrabbit Parole, married to the accomplished writer Susan Musgrave in Kent Institution in 1986, and then paroled the following year. For the next 12 years he seemed, at least to most of us, to be a devoted father and family man, committed to practicing the ideals of restorative justice, inventing a new life for himself on Vancouver Island.

As he notes in his new book, this all came crashing to the ground in 1999, when he resumed his affections for the injectable use of illicit drugs, quickly became addicted, ran up a huge tab for this excess, and then resumed his occupation of robbing a bank to pay for his indulgence.

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Another NDP Government? Reflections on 35 years in British Columbia

May 13th, 2013

I arrived in British Columbia in the fall of 1978 and was quickly made aware of the politics of the province. There was something close to caricature in the divide between left and right. – the NDP, led by social worker and democratic socialist Dave Barrett, and the Social Credit government, with its focus on public sector restraint, led by Kelowna businessman Bill Bennett.

The election of 1979 was close, but the result was not unexpected. The Social Credit government maintained its majority, and Dave Barrett continued as leader in opposition. But the election of 1983 was different. On the morning of the election I had happily proclaimed to anyone who would listen that this was the last day of Social Credit government in the province.  The 1982 recession and investigations of both insider trading and securities fraud were taking a toll.

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The Rule of Law: Reflections on Ukraine, the Brothers Ford, and Regulating Cannabis

January 13th, 2013

“I don’t believe in much”, my friend Bob said not long ago, “but I do believe in the rule of law”. And so it is with me as well. Forget the remote possibility of various rulers in the sky and elsewhere. I’m more interested in working out the fairness and legitimacy of the rules that speak to reconciling the inevitable tensions that exist amongst individuals, nation states, and the global community.

Not long after flying into Kiev, Ukraine in late November, I began to understand that this was a nation state without any fundamental adherence to the rule of law.  The former Prime Minister and oligarch Yulia Tymoshenko is in jail, imprisoned for seven years over a natural gas contract signed with Russia in 2009.  The United States, Russia, the UK, the European Union and NATO have all condemned the charges and her imprisonment as the “selective prosecution” of political opponents. Human rights organizations have, not surprisingly, been similarly critical.

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Luka Magnotta: Reflections on the Role of the Internet, the Media and Understanding Crime

June 7th, 2012

In July of 1910, when Dr. Hawley Crippen arrived by ocean liner in Quebec City, he was arrested for the murder of his wife; the emerging technology of the wireless telegraph was responsible for his demise. The good doctor was the first person to be caught in such a manner: he had fled the United Kingdom with his lover, but the wireless telegraph –- the precursor to the telephone — allowed the British to effect his capture.

Much has changed since 1910. We now have technologies of communication that would have seemed unthinkable even 20 years ago. The arrest of Luka Magnotta is a telling illustration of the power of the internet, a framework of communication that was, in practical terms, only in its infancy in the 1990s.

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In Memory of Mick Strubin, 1944 to 2012

March 5th, 2012

There were, not surprisingly, hundreds of people at the celebration of life for Mick Strubin. Bowen Island Fire Chief Brian Biddlecombe said of his friend and fellow firefighter, “Mick was born in West Vancouver in 1944 and retired shortly afterwards”. Funny and true — Mick was a lucky man, able to do pretty much what he wanted in his 68 years on the planet, and along the way he picked up hundreds of friends and admirers.

Mick’s son Christoph noted that his father was known for falling trees, firefighting, sailing and rugby. When we first moved to Bowen more than 30 years ago Mick was the one we called when we needed tree work done. Every year for more than a decade he would come over and take out a tree or two, often taking out fewer than we had initially thought was appropriate. It never seemed that we were hiring Mick to work for us. It always seemed more accurate to say that Mick was coming over for a conversation and would take down some trees, if he thought that made sense. And when he’d finally give us a bill, we always thought it was too little.

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The Future of Cannabis: How Are We to Move Forward?

February 27th, 2012

Cannabis has been taking centre stage in recent weeks. Former attorneys-general  and Vancouver mayors in British Columbia have called for regulation and taxation of the industry, in an attempt to stop the violence of the illegal trade.  At the same time the Harper government continues to move to passage of legislation that will mandate a six month minimum term of imprisonment for anyone growing six plants or more.

Undeterred, activists and pundits are now squabbling over the future of cannabis. How is it to be regulated? Placed in the pharmacy and made available on prescription? Regulated like fine red wine, with a focus on the quality of the product, the metaphorical grapes, the vineyards, and the country of origin?

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The Triumph of Secular Science (Steven Pinker’s The Better Angels of our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined)

January 4th, 2012

The response to Steven Pinker’s new book has been remarkable. While there are a few mixed reviews (James Q. Wilson in the Wall Street Journal comes to mind),  virtually everyone else either raves about the book or expresses something close to ad hominem contempt and loathing.

At the heart of the disagreement are competing conceptions of research and scholarship. How are we to study violence and to assess whether it has been increasing or decreasing? What analytic tools do we bring to the table?

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Debating the Crime Bill? Fix the Prisons First

December 1st, 2011

It’s a common occurrence for staff to receive threats from inmates.  This year I’ve received seven threats, all documented appropriately…. My facility is like 10 pounds of potatoes in a five-pound bag.  Inmates are sleeping on filthy mattresses on filthy floors because of the lack of space, and the health care is atrocious. Men with problems such as an abscessed tooth can wait 3 or 4 weeks for dental treatment, and men with open wounds are living in filthy conditions, which lead to constant infections.  And even when people do see a doctor or dentist, there is little follow-up. The inmates are treated like animals, in conditions that I would not be able to tolerate myself.

British Columbia Correctional Officer, November, 2011

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